Towards an Answer to the Imperial Court part 1: Introduction

On June 22, 1940 the war in Europe looked to be over, and a German victory a virtual certainty. The British, in their long running military tradition of celebrating hope in the jaws of defeat, had been forced to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, and France had been forced to sign an Armistice, with a collaborationist government headed by the hero of France, Field Marshall Philippe Petain. Yet, in many ways, this was not the end of the War, it was very beginning.

Similarly, the battle over gay marriage is not ending with the Supreme court, it is barely beginning. Yes, this is a major defeat, but it is not unexpected. Romans Chapter 1 tells us plainly that societies decline. There are two clear elements of the gay marriage debate, the first is the question of a gay couples relationship to the government, the second is that couple’s relationship to the rest of society. This latter issue is far more important for Christians than the former.

The next battle will continue to be debates over closely held Christian businesses in the wedding industry, as unbelieving society continues to focus on Stalinistic rehabilitation of Christian businesses. The next dominoes will likely be closely Christian businesses who treat gay couples different than legitimately married couples and Christian universities. Finally, their will likely be attempts to sue pastor’s who perform weddings for those who are not members of their congregations who “discriminate” against gay couples, or those who will not allow gay couples into membership. Many will argue that Christians are being hysterical, yet, these same voices argued if gay marriage became the law of the land, bakers and photographers would not be sued or fined out of business; I would question why we should believe the same left this time when they have a history of lying to the public in the past. Kennedy’s comments on religious liberty were wholly inadequate, allowing Christians to believe, but not to practice their faith, a clear violation of the “free exercise clause” of the first amendment (and the very term “exercise” requires that this must extend beyond mere allowance of individual beliefs).

Similarly, Justice Kennedy’s reasoning will likely open debates over polygamy, and perhaps incestuous and relationships involving those under the age of consent since one might very well argue that laws against pedophilia, incest and polygamy also deny human beings equal dignity under the law. The battle is, in many senses, then, just beginning.

Due to the nature of this discussion, I will write a quick series of articles, and will follow this up with a revision of my e-booklet Offering Incense to the Emperor later in the year (this will take time since I want to go over both the majority and all four dissenting opinions as well as a few other articles and works by other bloggers).

This series will entail multiple areas we must consider:

  • Strategic The immediate reaction, and a search towards an adequate strategy.
  • The decision – The logic of the Supreme Court is important in understanding where we are and where we are going.
  • Political – We cannot avoid a political element in the discussion; I will of necessity have to insert my political opinions, which will also require some explanations.
  • Legal – Christians and institutions are at risk, we need lawyers to help us dig the ditches, place the barb wire, and protect as much of our internal structure as necessary. Having lines of retreat may be necessary as well.
  • Spiritual – There is a Spiritual dimension to apologetics, that is sometimes ignored, or dealt with inadequately.

1940 was not the end of World War 2, it was the beginning. It would look darker long before the dawn of an allied victory. Similarly, it likely will get darker for us. We may be forced into difficult choices as our theological forebears who refused to offer incense to the genus of the Emperor. Yet, we have read the last chapter of the book, and we know when He comes, He will reign victoriously.

Offering Incense to the Emperor – Freedom and Freebies

As you likely know, Indiana and Arkansas are in the news, due to their attention to the matter of protecting religious liberties in their individual states, and they are therefore under attack.

This is a war we will likely lose, Romans 1 makes it very clear that societies are typically in decline, and acceptance of homosexuality is a mark of the end of that decline. Yet, as an apologist, it is not my responsibility to force people to accept Christian truth, it is my responsibility to do my best to make sure their acceptance or rejection is based on an understanding of what God requires of us all. Man’s reception of those truths is ultimately between them and God, who will judge all flesh.

Towards that end, I am releasing my pamphlet, “Offering Incense to the Emperor” for free on Kindle platforms from Thursday April 2nd, 2015 until April 7th 2015 (the full period of free days I am allotted for the quarter).

  1. My argument is a simple one, by applying my exegetical skills to the constitution, under the first and fourteenth amendments, it is unconstitutional for the government to force Christians to recognize homosexual unions in their public lives (this is drawn of course on the explicit rejection of a “living constitution” on the grounds that interpretation focused on something other than original authorial intent is to be dismissed as intellectually dishonest).
  2. The individual states may very well be understood to have the rights therefore to define the relationship between a gay couple and the state, but not between the gay couple and individuals or “closely held business,” (in the modern parlance).
  3. The gay community is ultimately using this unconstitutional use of force in place of argumentation, I further note the two routes the gay agenda could use to argue that Christians should accept homosexuality, and why in both cases, those attempts are unmitigated failures.

As noted, Offering Incense to the Emperor is absolutely free for the next few days, I hope it assists you in explaining why you believe that as Christians we cannot agree with the society in which we live.

I will be announcing other freebies in celebration of Easter soon.

Roman Revival 4: The Knapps and Idaho

I mentioned last night that there were two stories in the news prompting my recent and I might add an atypical run of discussions on Gay Marriage. The first one is the well known case in Houston, which I wrote about last night. The second concerns a Idaho based wedding chapel named the Hitching Post, which was being told that they would be required to accommodate same sex couples, though the city has recently backed off of their attempt at coercion. The argument being made by the state is that the wedding chapel is a “for profit” corporation. In a sense, then this would be the same as the discussion I’ve had before – we do not surrender our first amendment rights when we enter the public square (as even the Supreme Court recognized in the Hobby Lobby decision when they discussed that closely held corporations retain their religious liberties), and while it is reasonable (though I believe incorrect) for governments to define the relationship between gay couples and the state, it is a violation of the first amendment however for government to accept the right to define the relationship between a gay couple and the public.

Yet, there is a distinction between this case and those involving bakers and florists. While the wedding chapel is filing as a for profit business, this does not mean it is not a religious organization. Tax laws involving churches and religious organizations are complex, and a wedding chapel might not qualify as a non-profit organization, particularly if this wedding chapel is this couple’s livelihood, though of course this would be a closely held corporation and therefore they do not surrender their rights. Wedding chapels and churches both are involved in various elements of weddings some of which might be considered a business transaction (for example, some churches charge a cleaning fee for weddings or for the use of facilities for the reception, if held on church grounds, and in many churches as well friends and family provide food rather than caterers).

More to the point, while someone might argue that facilities of a wedding chapel (ie the building and the auditorium) are in the same category of bakers and florists, the same cannot be said for the services of the minister in performing the ceremonies. The Knapps perform wedding ceremonies on the grounds that they are pentecostal ministers. Under Idaho state law, this is the basis for their claim to be able to solemnize marriages; while it is possible for non-ordained persons to officiate that is not the grounds under which the Knapps perform ceremonies; they do so on the grounds that they have been recognized as authorized by an explicitly religious organization. Because they do so on the grounds of a specifically religious recognition, how can the state then argue that their religion does not matter? When they perform a marriage they are representing a specific Christian denomination however their organization’s tax status is organized.

The Knapps legal issues are over for now, but this is an issue that should cause Christians to be aware of the potential pressure of Government to change our teachings and our practices.

We now return you to the “regular” Truth in the Trenches schedule.

Roman Revival Part 2: Force and Reason on Homosexuality

As we noted earlier in the week, the subject of gay marriage is back in the news. Last time, I discussed the subject of homosexual marriage as an assault on the principles of religious liberty, and how I don’t believe this is a battle we will win politically. We must however, be aware of the nature of what homosexual marriage is really about – it is about exercising economic pressure to force Christians to capitulate to the decay of our culture.

But why are they seeking to use force and compulsion? Ultimately it is because they have failed to do so on the basis of persuasion and so gay marriage has been tied to the misguided utopian ideals so many are embracing in America today.

So why have they failed to make the argument? The answer is quite simple, the entire basis of their argument is that Christians should simply reject the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality – after all, why listen to God when the liberal establishment is clearly wiser and more intelligent? What does God’s opinion have to do with our lives anyway?

The other major argument raised is the use of questionable scientific studies to claim homosexuals are born this way – in most cases on very dubious research. The weakness in this approach is that, even if a scientific proximate cause could be demonstrated (and I do not believe one has been – to date the theories suggested are either refuted by twin studies since to prove biological causation would need a correlation well over 90% and no study even comes close, or the theory is based on excessive use of conjecture), to accept that homosexuality is morally acceptable would require the assumption that man is basically good. It would require us to abandon not only the belief that the Bible is the final authority of the faith, and therefore of Christian morality, but also the central doctrine that man is basically evil, whether the preferred terminology is original sin, total depravity, the old man or the sin nature, Scripture is plain – man is born corrupt.

If it could ever actually be demonstrated that biology actually determines sexual orientation (or that it is a factor at all) at best, from a Christian perspective, it would merely mean that we would accept that there is a biological component to the imputation of sin.

To be clear then, what should it take for Christians to abandon the Christian position on gay marriage? While most Christians will be appalled at the question, this is in line with my previous discussion about what it would take to abandon the Christian faith itself, which, in fact be one of the two legitimate arguments that could be made: as noted if one wants to persuade me that Christianity is untrue, that evolution is true, or that there is no God they must simply find the body.

The other possibility would to prove that the Bible does not in fact teach that homosexuality is sinful. This has been tried, but all such attempts are failures, either because they ignore the context of the passages or they try to compare the Koine Greek to obscure Attic references in Plato and other writers – this would be like my demonstrating that computers were simply calculators based on the way the verb “to compute” was used by Francis Bacon. The reason why these interpretations are reject is because, in fact, the reasoning is poor.  A basic discussion of the Bible’s teachings on this subject are available in sermon form.

In all cases, then, Christians have no basis for abandoning the Bible’s teachings on this subject.

Roman Revival Part 1: Homosexual Marriage and the Assault on Religious Freedom

The subject of Gay marriage is back in the news again. I’ve noted in the past that the question of gay marriage is ultimately an attack on the first amendment – this is why bakers, florists and now even ordained ministers are being fined and in a few cases threatened with possible imprisonment if they will not tolerate in their public life what we must reject in our private lives. The reason why this is an assault on our first amendment freedom is that it compels one to act against one’s moral beliefs and therefore it is a clear establishment of religion (after all, discussions of morality are by definition within the sphere of religious belief).

To be clear, however, the question of the first amendment is not an unforeseen result of gay marriage, it is the very point of gay marriage. In discussing the decision by the Supreme Court to strike down part of DOMA (on grounds that marriage is within the purview of the states, which various Federal appeals courts then violated by overturning state laws), Justice Scalia in his dissenting opinion purposefully compared the DOMA decision to the Roman persecution of Christianity – that is, the reason why gay marriage must be legalized is because Christians do not accept homosexuality, and therefore must be forced to accept it.

This is not a battle I believe we can win, at least not politically. Romans 1:26-27 is clear: the sin of homosexuality as well as its acceptance is the result of a culture that had abandoned the truth of God for a while, and worshiped the creature (in modern society man and society itself) rather than the Creator. If homosexuality is becoming an issue it is because God’s response to our explicit abandonment of our Christian heritage since the 60’s is to abandon us to our own sinful devices.

So if homosexuality is a mark of coming judgment and a step towards a depraved mind, why do we oppose it? After all, if this is God moving towards judgment, isn’t His judgment righteous? More to the point, perhaps, isn’t it easy to go with the flow, and not make waves, which could be bad for our careers or our potential place in society?

We oppose homosexuality for the same reason that earlier generations refused to offer incense to Cesar – because to do so was an explicit abandonment of Christ. We may not win in society, but ultimately we are all called to bear a testimony for what we know to be right. As apologists, we are to leave this world without excuse; to be faithful even if not successful, by this world’s judgment.

Justin Martyr noted that the ultimate cause of the Roman persecution was not that Christians were morally inferior to the Romans, but rather because they were reminders of the moral requirements of God that society wanted to forget. Similarly, Christians oppose Homosexuality not because we hate those who are not like us, or due to imagined psychological maladies (like homophobia), it is because to love Christ means we must accept His truth over our societies ideals, and to love our neighbor means we cannot abandon them to judgment without warning them of their sin.

The need for a Religious Freedom’s Protection Act

A second re-run article due to the Federal court’s idiocy.

Last time, I made the point that our religious liberties are in danger because of gay marriage. The wedding industry is already seeing a spat of Christians being fined for “discrimination” because they refuse to take part in gay themed events. As I noted, this is clearly not a matter of discrimination, I’ve not heard of a bakery refusing to sell gay patrons a birthday cake; rather it is the specific event – gay marriages – that conflicts with their religious beliefs, not specific patrons. So how do we respond to this matter given the climate of the times? Our first instinct, of course, is to pray for our country, our nation, and our leaders, but a second action in the political realm of affairs should be followed: we need a religious liberties protection act.

Of course, many will argue that this should be unnecessary – after all, that is the function of the first amendment, isn’t it? The problem, of course, is that too many in government have applied the first amendment as guaranteeing religious institutions, rather than citizens, with these protections. So your church has protections for their religious positions, but you or the other members of your church don’t. The arguments over the “separation of Church and State” further trouble these waters, as the left more aggressively interprets that separation in terms that allow them to ignore religious freedom, but this is a subject for another time. Many people will argue, as my Senator did in a letter to me on the subject of gay marriage, that this is a matter of the rights of the states, and therefore the Congress has no authority to act. This was also the rationale the US Supreme court used to overthrow the defense of marriage act, despite the issue of state’s rights not being wholly germane, and despite the fact that recent court decisions by Federal judges ignore the basis of the decision.

I am certainly friendly to the arguments for Constitutionally limited government, but the authority of congress extends beyond article 1 section 3; the fourteenth amendment for example gives congress the authority (and the implied responsibility) to pass legislation to prevent the various states from infringing on American civil liberties, the text is long and contains elements outside of the issue of individual rights related to the debates of the reconstruction era, but the key provisions are that no state may pass legislation that abridges the freedom of an American citizen, and the last line specifically states that Congress has the authority to enforce the amendment by legislation.

The specifics of what I am suggesting is an act that asserts that no American citizen will be compelled or coerced to commit an act that goes against their religious beliefs by threats of fines, economic deprivation, imprisonment or loss of property, privilege or life by any state, court or local municipality. Of course, this expands beyond the issue of gay marriage, numerous other issues exist that would be affected by this passage. Whether the issue is forcing catholic institutions to support insurance that includes birth control, stores being forced to buy policies that support abortions, mayors publicly refusing to allow certain companies to open stores in their cities or the issue of wedding planners, no public official should have this authority. So when it comes to the religious Liberties Protection Act, I’ve written my congressmen, have you written yours?